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Leadership and Staff

Martin O’Brien

Martin O’Brien was Senior Vice President for Programmes at The Atlantic Philanthropies through 2015. He was based in Belfast.

In this role, Mr. O’Brien oversaw and managed Atlantic’s four programmes – Ageing, Children & Youth, Population Health and Reconciliation & Human Rights – as the foundation sought to maximise the impact of its grantmaking in its final years as a limited life foundation. Atlantic will disburse its remaining endowment and complete active grantmaking by 2016, and close its doors by 2020.

Mr. O’Brien had been Atlantic’s Country Director for Northern Ireland since 2010 and the Director of the Reconciliation & Human Rights Programme worldwide since 2004. Prior to joining Atlantic in 2004, Mr. O’Brien spent 17 years coordinating the work of the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ), an organisation dedicated to securing the highest standards in the administration of justice in Northern Ireland. It was during Mr. O’Brien’s tenure in 1998 that CAJ received the prestigious Council of Europe Human Rights Prize in recognition of its contribution to the peace process in Northern Ireland.

Mr. O’Brien has written, spoken and publicly campaigned on a wide range of civil liberties issues.  He was particularly active in securing strong human rights protections in the historic Good Friday Peace Agreement.

He is the co-founder of several organisations, including Youth for Peace, the Irish Network for Nonviolent Action Training and Education (INNATE), and Kilcranny House, a rural education centre committed to healing the divisions that exist in Northern Ireland. He is a past recipient of the Reebok Human Rights Award, and his work in Northern Ireland has been honoured by both Human Rights Watch and Human Rights First.

Mr. O’Brien received his degree in Sociology and Social Administration in 1987 and a Master’s degree in human rights law in 1996, both from Queen’s University Belfast. In May 1999, Notre Dame College in New Hampshire gave him an Honorary Doctorate in recognition of his work to promote justice and peace in Northern Ireland.